2022 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: BIOSORRA, IESE Business School


IESE Business School

 Industry: Agriculture, Climate, Food Security, Sustainability

Founding Student Name(s): Ines Serra Baucells

Brief Description of Solution: BIOSORRA is a female-led social enterprise that provides affordable biofertilizer. The biofertilizer increases crop yields by up to 150% for smallholder farmers in Kenya while removing 2,5x tons of carbon from the atmosphere for every 1 ton produced. This focus on sustainability enables BIOSORRA to sell carbon credits to companies to offset their CO2 emissions according to decarbonization objectives. Ultimately, this means BIOSORRA is able to both accelerate climate justice for underserved communities while alleviating food insecurity and poverty.

Funding Dollars: 265,000 non-equity funding from XPRIZE Elon Musk foundation and MIT Solve

What led you to launch this venture? The combination of personal and professional motivations with my passion:

PERSONAL.  I love outdoor sports. I am happiest when running in the forests or swimming in the ocean. Growing up, I was lucky enough to ski competitively every weekend in the Pyrenees during the winter season and cycle every day during summer with my family through the mountains in Viladrau. I completed Ironman 70.3 in 2018, and while training for it, I realized the damage that we are doing to nature (high pollution in Beijing affected my half marathon performance in 2016).

PROFESSIONAL. For my final master’s thesis, I analyzed geothermal systems and soil nutrient conductivity and understood that soil is the origin of life, and needs to be preserved. I did my internship in China (2016) and at a renewable energy company in Germany (2017). I spent the following four years working as a strategy consultant at Deloitte (2017) and McKinsey (2021). Throughout this time, however, I questioned whether I was using my energy to make companies richer rather than taking actual climate action.

PASSION. Soil has been my passion since I was a kid. It retains blood from wars, contains history and is also an example of the beauty of nature, something that I’ve been lucky to explore through living close to the mountains. Since then, I have been collecting soil and sand from around the world. BIOSORRA means organic (BIO) soil (Sorra means soil in Catalan). I have a shelf with 63 bottles of soil samples from four different places that I collected over the last 10 years. I realized that my most recent samples were unhealthy and noticed the decaying of their color.

Altogether, this pushed me to first apply to some UN jobs and send letters to Greta Thunberg, Barack Obama, Melinda French Gates to become part of the climate solution. Of course, I didn’t get a response, but I decided during the MBA to do something about it myself.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with the venture?
After not securing funding from the final round Hult Prize United Nations accelerator in September 2021, I wasn’t sure where BIOSORRA was going. I gave myself a deadline of December 2022 to fundraise, as it was impossible to make the big move to secure BIOSORRA´s future without it (relocation to Kenya, non-consulting salary, launching a startup). The XPRIZE grant from Elon Musk foundation came right on time. BIOSORRA is an award winner of part of the $100M biggest prize incentive in history to decarbonize the planet. This, along with farmers’ success stories in Ghana for product-market fit and recently owned upgraded technology designed, means I am beyond excited for the future!

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? During the pandemic, I decided to join the IESE MBA program to upskill myself, fill my professional gaps, and build a sustainability startup after some work experience post-MBA. I’ll admit that my plan was to first gain some professional experience and pay back my student loan before launching my own climate startup. But CLIMATE DOES NOT WAIT. After checking impact jobs and not finding a clear career path to address it, I decided to take the lead and do something about it. Launching BIOSORRA during the MBA was a safe space to test startup assumptions, and be surrounded by brilliant students and professors who genuinely want to help. All while getting the best connections that I wouldn’t have had access to outside IESE.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? My grandfather, Francisco Serra Coll, and my mum, Elisabeth Baucells Granell.

I admire my grandfather, who was pushed to study medicine in a post-war era, but turned to chemistry as he believes science and chemistry explain everything. He invested his brilliant chemistry career in PUIG, which today has €2.5B in net revenues and is present in +150 countries. He worked his way up to becoming the first non-family member CEO, thanks to his charisma and intelligence. He is a natural leader, and always pushes all of us, his grandchildren, to do our best (even now that he is 92!). When he understood the planet problem I am addressing, he became the first follower and advisor as he believes it is a “human problem beyond a climate problem”.

Also, my mum, who is totally crazy. She studied a third degree at the age of 50, while being the CEO at Precintia, a company that went bankrupt during the pandemic. She decided to recover last year (at the age of 58) by launching another company: Industries Process Factory. She is the boldest person I know, pushing relentlessly to get things done. She is an amazing finance and leadership advisor.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? It was “New Ventures-Development” from Duke University (Fuqua School of Business) during my exchange semester, taught by Professor Jamie N. Jones. It taught me about de-risking and prioritizing your assumptions and helped me to iterate to narrow it down to reality.

I also learned a lot by taking IESE´s “Doing Business in Africa” module from Strathmore Business School (IESE´s partner school in Nairobi), which is taught by IESE professor Alejandro Lago. This module helped me learn the local business context.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? From IESE, it would be Alejandro Lago for his high-energy lessons and experience working in Kenya. He made me think differently about how to approach business in Kenya and questioned my ultimate goal to help keep me focused. Prof. Lago, together with IESE profs. Desiree Pacheco and Joan Jané, also gave our team guidance during the summer 2021.

From Strathmore University, it would be Professor Simon Wagura, climate and agribusiness expert who offered his time and connections, as well as the Dean, Dr. George Njenga, who welcomed me to Kenya once I moved here and has since provided valuable feedback and connections.

From Duke University (Fuqua School of Business), it would be Professor Jamie N. Jones, who provided immediate and thoughtful support for BIOSORRA. She is an incredibly structured person with relevant startup experience who immediately connected me with people who provided me with support and resources to advance the startup. Last but not least, I appreciated Professor Cathy Clark from Impact Investment gave me immediate support on how to move forward after securing the XPRIZE grant.

How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success? I will always be grateful for our amazing IESE 2022 MBA cohort. Since Sofie, Dorian, Craig, Vinoshen, Carla and I were sent to the UN Hult prize final accelerator in the summer of 2021, they helped us with financial support: a Gofundme campaign to kick off the pilot in Ghana coming from the limited economic resources among students. But the mental cheerleading has been even more epic throughout the MBA program. I feel really lucky to call them colleagues and friends.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? This social enterprise gives meaning to what I came to do in my life: I want to be remembered as someone who positively and systematically helped forge a sustainable future by prioritizing the riskiest desertification areas in the Global South first  – and hence helped reduce inequalities and food insecurities.

BIOSORRA’s vision is removing 1GT net out of the atmosphere, impacting 10M farmers, and scaling the business through a franchise model that empowers local women to succeed in the communities that we operate in.


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